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Anthony Davis: A Valley Legend Keeps On Moving PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 13 March 2014 02:20

At the height of his fame, it’s doubtful any other San Fernando Valley athlete enjoyed a higher profile or had more name recognition than Anthony Davis.

In the 1970s, Davis was a standout high school baseball and football player at San Fernando High, who went on to have a spectacular college career at USC. He played on five national championship teams — two in football, three in baseball — and was an All-American in both sports.

His pro sports career didn’t equal his college exploits, for various reasons. And since his playing days ended Davis has been involved in everything from real estate to acting to sports radio talk broadcasting, with uneven results. But, at age 61, he’s still upright and working at finding and enjoying the best things in life that he can.

“I’m doing all right, I’m okay,” Davis said, in a phone interview with the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol. And even with his notoriety, Davis still remains closely connected with Pacoima, where he grew up. His mother is there, and he has lived with her from time to time. People in the community still want to shake his hand and ask for autographs whenever they see him. But one does not play football for any length of time and not have the sport take a physical toll. Like many others, Davis began having some issues with memory and other functioning brain skills after his playing days.

The National Football League has been under fire from former players and others for not doing enough to protect players from concussions and other head injuries that could lead to lifelong problems like dementia or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or doing enough for them medically once their careers end. The book “League Of Denial” released last year, and also inspiring a “Frontline” PBS documentary, contends the NFL for years denied and/or covered up knowledge of a connection between football and brain damage.

Deceased players Junior Seau, Mike Webster, John Mackey and Dave Duerson and former quarterback Jim Mc- Mahon, are some of the wellknown NFL “names” who have been or still are being tremendously affected by traumatic brain injury.

The league thought it had resolved its legal issues in January with a $765 million settlement to end a class-action suit representing 4,500 former players to fund medical treatment and injury compensation for the players and their families. But U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, who is presiding, withheld approval of the settlement because she was not certain the amount covered all the players potentially affected.

In 2007, Davis was examined bwy Dr. Daniel Amen, a boardcertified psychiatrist who’s been assistant clinical professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, and who has also authored books, hosted television shows and is CEO of several clinics (including Costa Mesa in Orange County) bearing his name. Amen likes to examine patients through single photon emission computed tomography, known as SPECT, to help diagnose and manage cases of brain trauma. The Amen Clinics have charged $3,250 for a "comprehensive evaluation," which included the patient's history, two SPECT scans (concentration scan and baseline scan), a physician consultation, and a 30-minute treatment follow-up appointment. Follow-up scans after treatment were $795 each. After an examination, Amen told Davis, who was 54 at the time, that he had the functioning brain of an 84-year-old man.

For the past seven years Davis has been a part of a program designed by Amen, who is now the CEO of several clinics. The program is designed to fight and reverse the long-term brain damage from numerous concussions, along with fighting other ailments like depression and anxiety, with a regimen involving a healthy diet, regular exercise, weight control, and daily consumption of brain-directed dietary supplements that can include high quality fish oil, a comprehensive multiple vitamin and mineral supplement that, according to Amen’s website, are “targeted to support blood flow and neurotransmitter levels in the brain.”

When he re-scanned Davis in 2008, there was reportedly significant improvement in blood flow and activity. "Within several months AD told me that he felt better, more focused, and he had better energy and a better memory,” Amen said on the web site. Amen’s methods and clinics are not without their skeptics. In 2007, the American Psychiatric Association issued two separate reports on children and adults, arguing that much of the success claims were supported “only by anecdotal evidence and testimonials.” But Davis said he is satisfied with his results.

“When it comes to concussions, I don’t care what anyone says,” Davis said. “You can put a tank around your head. But when your brain rattles, you are done. When your brain is coming out, it’s done.

“I’ve learned a lot about brain trauma. I’ve seen brain scans of pro boxers, scans of a ‘marijuana brain,’ a ‘methamphetamine brain.’ I know what can happen. I am very lucky. I had a couple concussions diagnosed and I got out it time. Now I can’t see how anybody can play 15-20 years of pro football. I was beat up, but I consider myself sharp.” He declines to further discuss his battles with concussions, other than to say he is working on a book. “I’ve said things to (the media) in the past that have come out wrong and twisted,” Davis said. “Nothing against you, but I’m gonna tell it my way.”

Born in Huntsville, Texas, Davis came to California at age two with his family in 1954, first to Watts in South Central Los Angeles, and then Pacoima three years later. Even as a youth Davis showed a high level of athletic talent, particularly in baseball. By the time he got to San Fernando High, however, Davis was also playing football. Although he stood just 5-9, he had a rare combination of speed and strength that made him a devastating running back. He helped San Fernando reach the L.A. City 4A championship game (which the Tigers lost to Granada Hills). And he was named the City player of the year in football and baseball.

But it was at USC that Davis rose to national prominence. He would set 24 school, Pac-8 Conference and NCAA records in three seasons, 1972-74. He rushed for more than 5,400 allpurpose yards and 52 touchdowns. Eleven of them came in three games against Notre Dame; a school record six in the 43-25 victory in 1972 (including two kickoff returns); one in 1973; and four in the 55-17 win in 1974. In that game, Notre Dame went out to a 17-0 lead only to have USC score 55 unanswered points. He still ranks third on USC's all-time career rushing chart (3,724 yards and 44 touchdowns, according totalfootballstats. com).

Davis played on five national championship teams at USC, two in football and three in baseball, and is the only NCAA player to be an All-American in both sports the same year. Many still believed, especially Davis, that he should have been given the 1974 Heisman Trophy instead of Ohio State’s Archie Griffin (who won it again in 1975, making Griffin the only player to win consecutive Heisman awards). He was selected to the college football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Pro sports success was harder to come by. Davis was selected in the second round of the 1975 NFL Draft by the New York Jets (37th overall), and the Minnesota Twins chose him in the fourth round (83rd) in the 1975 Major League Baseball amateur draft. But Davis opted to play football for the fledgling World Football League, signing with the Southern California Sun. The league survived its first year in 1974, but ceased operations 13 weeks into its 1975 season.

“I was biggest name in college football at the time and not a number one [NFL] draft pick,” Davis said. “So I went to World Football League, where they gave me top five money” — a five year, $1.7 million contract. The abrupt end of the WFL sent Davis on a vagabond odyssey through pro football. Over the next few years he saw time in the NFL, Canadian Football League and United States Football League. But injuries shortcircuited his on-field brilliance; by 1983, he was done.

His biggest mistake, Davis said, was choosing the wrong sport. “I realize I should have played baseball,” he said. “I almost left USC in my sophomore year to play baseball (when then drafted by the Baltimore Orioles). And when I played in senior pro leagues in 1990s, I really realized I had made a mistake. I was playing with people like Jim Rice and Vida Blue, and they were telling me I should have played.

“It’s a big regret. I only played five years in pro football and I was hurt half the time in that. But everything is timing. I didn’t have all pierces around me. But the fact I had the experience, I am grateful.”

And Davis continues on. He knows, as far as pro sports goes, he was ahead of his time; that if he came out of college today with the same kinds of skills, he could have made much more money. But that isn’t how life works. There have been other published articles suggesting Davis had been buried in debt. But he strongly denies it.

“Remember, in the 1970s I was biggest name in college football; the money today, no telling what I could have made,” he said.

“I’m okay. Do I want more? Yes. But I’m fine. The recession affected everyone, but I’m not broke.”